Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is almost an underrated NBA legend. On the court there are six titles, six MVPs, Finals MVPs 14 years apart, 19 All-Star appearances, and he’s scored more points than anyone in the history of the game, often using one of the game’s most signature shots. Off the court, he’s been a historian of the game, as well as a noted voice speaking about race issues and being a Muslim in America.
Tuesday, President Barack Obama recognized Abdul-Jabbar for his leadership by awarding him the Medal of Freedom (along with Michael Jordan, Bill and Melinda Gates, Robert DiNero, and a host of other deserving folks). Here is what the president said about Abdul-Jabbar.
“…as a surprisingly similar-looking co-pilot, Roger Murdock, once said in the movie Airplane — I mean, we’ve got some great actors here: Space Jam, Airplane — he did it all while dragging [Bill] Walton and [Bob] Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.
“But the reason we honor Kareem is more than just a pair of goggles and the skyhook. He stood up for his Muslim faith when it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t popular. He’s as comfortable sparring with Bruce Lee as he is advocating on Capitol Hill or writing with extraordinary eloquence about patriotism. Physically, intellectually, spiritually, Kareem is one of a kind: an American who illuminates both our most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations.”